A first-of-its-kind training academy for gang intervention workers graduated its inaugural class Saturday.
Twenty-seven students received certificates from the Los Angeles Violence Intervention Training Academy after finishing a 140-hour course taught over 14 weeks at the UCLA Downtown Labor Center.
Fernando Rejon, a manager at the academy, said its goal was to professionalize the field of gang intervention.
He told City News Service the students were given practical lessons about how to minimize gang violence.
"Probably the core and the heart of the training is the direct practice section (of the curriculum), where we're talking about mediation and conflict resolution, community crisis intervention, setting a ceasefire or 'understanding', and maintaining those," said Rejon.
The interventionists were also taught about "ethnic dynamics."
"When you're working in Chicano communities, intervention is done a certain way," said Rejon. "In African-American communities, the approach might be a little different."
The city spends about $26 million a year to deal with gangs, hiring gang intervention agencies to mediate ceasefires, and gang prevention agencies to provide activities that would lure youth away from gangs.
In January, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa awarded the Advancement Project, co-founded by prominent civil rights activist and lawyer Connie Rice, a contract to operate a training academy for gang intervention workers and professionalize the field.
The academy will begin classes for 30 new students in September.
According to the City Council's now-disbanded Ad Hoc Committee on Gang Violence, Los Angeles is home to 400 gangs with 39,000 members.